Child Abuse and Sexual and Commercial Exploitation
Children have the right to be protected against all forms of abuse. Sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation are crimes and severe violations of the Rights of the Child.
Commerial Sexual Exploitation is the use children for adult sexual satisfaction in exchange for remuneration in money or in kind, paid to the child or to a third party. It is a form of coercion and violence against children, and is considered to be a contemporary version of slavery.
Commercial sexual exploitation includes a range of commercial sexual activities, such as child prostitution, the trade and sale of children for sex within a country or across international borders, the production, promotion and distribution of pornographic materials and using minors in public or private sex shows.
The ways in which this serious violation of children’s rights are carried out include sexual tourism, local demand for sex with girls and boys with the involvement of local individual and organised exploiters, trafficking of children with the intention of using them in sexual activities, as well as the distribution of pornography on the internet.
There are no recent estimates of the actual number of children who are exploited sexually and commercially. However, according to an exploratory study carried out by the ILO/IPEC in 2002, the situation in the cities of Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata is characterised by the existence of:
• Tolerance of sexual exploitation by the local as well as foreign population
• Adults buying sex from children, in the parks, streets, beaches, brothels, night clubs, bars and hotels.
• Intermediaries, businesses and organised networks of exploiters earning money through these activities.
• Production of child pornography.
• Minors being trafficked for sexual and commercial purposes.
• Increase in the use of the internet for dissemination of child pornography and promotion of sex tourism.
• Impunity for national and foreign sexual exploiters.
(Source: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors in the Dominican Republic/Santo Domingo: ILO/ IPEC; Population and Development Studies Institute (IEPD/PROFAMILIA), 2002)
(The risk factors associated with the commercial sexual exploitation of boys, girls and young people include sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. According to data from the Ministry of Public Health (SESPAS), the adult population that is currently affected by the AIDS virus contracted the illness during their teenage years, confirming the vulnerability of the adolescent population.
Since the 1990s, UNICEF-Santo Domingo has been supporting the process of recognition and awareness of this problem, and strengthening prevention, rehabilitation and reinsertion initiatives for the victims of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as strengthening judicial and police control, i.e. the responses provided by the institutions responsible for investigating offences and pursuing the perpetrators.
In coordination with the Inter-Institutional Commission against Abuse and Commercial Sexual Exploitation, UNICEF has supported the following actions: social mobilisation at national and international levels, training, through three university level diploma courses on the theme aimed at the National Police, Health sector workers and community leaders from ten Child Friendly Municipalities. A total of over 300 professionals have been trained as multipliers, as well as more than 3,000 community members, which has helped create child protection networks at a municipal level, and draw up a Family Strategy that will be presented to the governmental authorities for their consideration.
Likewise, 45 consular officials from Dominican consulates in Europe received training at a workshop held in Italy, and tourist industry personnel have also been trained in preventing commercial sexual exploitation, using World Tourism Organisation (WTO) educational modules.
At a local level, UNICEF has been supporting the coordination between institutions and the creation of community networks that will work to prevent and protect against sexual abuse and commercial exploitation.
The working strategy which involves coordination between the central government authorities, the municipal authorities, and civil society, and at the same time at international level, with consuls and tourism operators, has been recognised as a good practice in several Latin American countries, and the Dominican Republic has been invited to present its experience at several international events in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Ecuador and at the World Tourism Fair in the German capital, Berlin.
Partnerships with non-traditional partners, such as the National Hotels and Restaurants Association – ASONAHORES: its members have drawn up and signed a Code of Conduct for the Hotel Sector that represents a very important step, which involves commitment by these businesses, including staff training on how to prevent Commerial Sexual Exploitation on their premises, as well as other actions.Likewise the recent association with Centro Cuesta Nacional, in support of the “Their Innocence is not for Sale” campaign , is an example of corporate commitment to prevention of abuse and Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
The campaigns that have been launched and distributed through the communications media have been used as advocacy and social mobilisation tools, aimed at achieving ZERO TOLERANCE for abuse and Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
As long as Dominican chilren continue to be sexually and commercially exploited, all the progress outlined will have been little more than symbolic.
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